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Phillies are back, and so is the goat of their last Series

October 19, 2008|Bill Shaikin | Times Staff Writer

PHILADELPHIA -- This is not supposed to happen to the Bill Buckners and Steve Bartmans of the sporting world. On the eve of the World Series, you do not embrace your goat.

Yet, as the Philadelphia Phillies worked out Saturday in preparation for their first World Series in 15 years, their goat stood in the middle of the clubhouse, greeting players and granting interviews.

This goat goes by the name of Mitch Williams. He threw the Phillies' last pitch in the World Series. Joe Carter hit it, for the home run that won the series for the Toronto Blue Jays, then danced around the bases.

"I get to see that highlight," Williams said, "all the time."

Williams never threw another pitch for the Phillies. He received death threats. The Phillies traded him to the Houston Astros six weeks later, despite his 43 saves. He recorded six saves for the Astros the next year, at 29, and those saves turned out to be the final ones of his career.

When he returned to Philadelphia with the Astros, he got a standing ovation. He played for the Angels and Kansas City Royals before pitching and managing in the independent Atlantic League, and now he works as an analyst on the Phillies' broadcast team.

"What happened on the field, obviously, I'm going to be vilified for that. I'm the guy that threw the pitch," Williams said.

"The reason I'm back here is that I never hid from that. The people in Philadelphia don't want excuses. They want honesty."

The American League has won seven of the last 10 World Series titles, but Williams said the Phillies can prevail this year because of the strength of their lineup.

"If they put it all together, there's not another team that can stay with them," he said.

The Phillies dispatched the Dodgers in the National League Championship Series in five games, despite a .143 average from leadoff batter Jimmy Rollins and one extra-base hit from cleanup batter Ryan Howard.

"Look at the Dodgers," Williams said. "They were in the playoffs solely because of Manny Ramirez. They got swept out of the playoffs because they were solely Manny Ramirez."

The Phillies "neutralized Manny Ramirez," he added, "and everybody else didn't matter."

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bill.shaikin@latimes.com

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